Pre-accelerator healthcare-focused program EnRICH earns Jackson State University a $25,000 visionary prize

(JACKSON, Miss.) — Jackson State University has landed a $25,000 “visionary” prize for its pre-accelerator healthcare-focused program known as EnRICH (Engaging Researchers and Innovators for Commercialization at HBCUs).

The award was earned during the recent Lab-To-Market (L2M) Inclusive Innovation Ecosystem Prize competition. Funding partners are the U.S. Small Business Administration and the National Science and Technology Council’s L2M subcommittee.

The L2M prize competition recognizes the most impactful organizations, programs and ideas that support research and development (R&D) innovation ecosystems, particularly those focused on underrepresented communities and pandemic responses. Also, the competition encourages entrepreneurship, and it fosters inclusive, sustainable growth by helping to develop and commercialize technology for improving access to resources.

As a result, JSU is spearheading the pre-accelerator EnRICH program (www.xleratornetwork.com/enrich), which also cultivates an environment of diversity, inclusion, equity and entrepreneurship in underrepresented communities. Furthermore, it helps HBCU faculty and students enhance their knowledge and skills so they can critically evaluate the commercial potential of their new innovations.

EnRICH is powered by the XLerator Network, which launched last summer and is funded by a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award (UT2GM130174) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As well, the University of Kentucky and XLerateHealth, a national startup accelerator based in Louisville, partnered with JSU to launch the program.

EnRICH’s original cohort focused on the 31 HBCUs in the Southeast Institutional Development Award (IDeA) region — Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and West Virginia. Now, however, the program has expanded to all HBCUs in the nation. The second cohort, which runs from March 5 – May 7, will include participants from eight different HBCUs, representing five states.

Dr. Almesha L. Campbell

Dr. Almesha L. Campbell, executive director of EnRICH and assistant vice president for Research and Economic Development at JSU, said, “We are pleased about the potential impact of this award on the sustainability of the EnRICH program. From its inception, our goal has always been about the reduction in the inequities that currently exist and addressing barriers that prevent HBCUs from fully engaging and benefiting from all the activities in the innovation and entrepreneurial space.”

In addition, Campbell said, “HBCUs are pillars of their communities, and thus, the activities inherent in innovation and entrepreneurship programs, such as EnRICH, are critical to the growth and sustainability of their ecosystems.”

Ian McClure, executive director of the University of Kentucky Office for Technology Commercialization (OTC), said, “We are thrilled to work with such like-minded partners as Jackson State University and XLerateHealth.”

McClure added, “Not just talking but taking action to create an inclusive innovation ecosystem with equitable access to opportunity and resources — UK OTC wears that badge of responsibility proudly … to get intentional about ensuring that innovation and entrepreneurship resources and culture can be accessed by any and all underrepresented communities, institutions and persons.”

The pre-accelerator program will provide underrepresented minorities with access to expert knowledge, entrepreneurship best practices, professional networks, mentorships, and additional resources.

“Determined to reverse systemic underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic populations in deep tech innovation and entrepreneurship, we are thrilled to partner with JSU and UK to leverage our resources to create expanded opportunities for underrepresented faculty, students and entrepreneurs, with a particular emphasis on outcomes and true equity,” said Jackie Willmot, CEO of XLerateHealth.

The visionary prize is an example of EnRICH’s significant work and recognition. In fact, it received additional exposure in Forbes magazine. So, read more about the urban HBCU’s healthcare program here.